Addiction recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Successful marathon runners know that focusing on the entire distance in front of them can foster fears and concerns about whether they can endure through the entire race. Rather than focusing on that distance, they break the race into smaller parts and complete each part in turn.
Make it to Midnight
The same philosophy works wonders in addiction recovery. Instead of focusing on the entire lifetime of recovery and sobriety that an addict will have in front of him, he can instead take his recovery one day at a time. Going through an entire day of sobriety and lasting until midnight without a dose of alcohol or drugs increases the recovering addict’s sense of self-esteem and teaches him that he can set and accomplish a goal of staying sober for a defined period of time. As more and more days of sobriety are notched in a recovering alcoholic’s belt, each successive day of sobriety becomes that much easier.
This “make it til midnight” philosophy works in other areas of a recovering addicts life as well. In addition to committing to stay away from alcohol for a 24-hour period, for example, a recovering alcoholic can commit to staying positive during that time. He can decide not to solve every problem all at once, but to break down separate problems into their component parts and to handle each part in turn. He can plan to learn something new or to provide a service for somebody else. All of these actions are consistent with “smart” goal setting, which recommends that goals be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound. A goal of staying away from drugs or alcohol for 24 hours meets all five of these criteria.
Staying Sober in Recovery
Recovering addicts who are unable to meet this simple goal can more readily start over with another 24-hour goal the very next day. If the addict were to look at the bigger, lifelong picture of his recovery and he slipped on one day early in that process, that bigger picture will quickly overwhelm him and defeat all recovery attempts. Although lifelong sobriety is the ultimate goal of all recovery programs, those programs do not ask their participants to make lifelong commitments. They are more attuned to teaching recovering addicts to accept their illnesses and to deal with the stresses and triggers that caused them. Asking an addict to stay sober for a short 24-hour period creates short-term targets that should be easy for an addict to hit. If the addict cannot hit the target on any one specific day, he can try to hit it again on the next day, and on every day after that. Hitting the target once can be the best motivation to stay with a recovery program.
A recovering addict will occasionally find himself with an unhealthy focus on the “make it to midnight” mantra. These addicts should remember that achieving this goal is a reward in itself and that they should not latch onto other rewards (particularly if those other rewards involve drugs or alcohol) for surviving to midnight. These feelings might arise when an addict finds himself bored in his recovery process. Successful recovery programs teach addicts to look for new opportunities and diversions to keep them from becoming bored and succumbing to relapse triggers that are connected to this boredom.
Please contact the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) at 512-360-3600 for more information about day-by-day goals in a recovery program. If you are struggling with alcohol or drug problems but are willing to try to stay sober for even one 24-hour period, you have gone a long way toward solving those problems.